Thursday, October 27, 2011

Halloween Wreath

You've bought candy. You've bought a costume. You've even bought a blow-up Frankenstein to stick in the front yard. But wait... what about the front door!? 
No worries! You can make this adorable Halloween wreath with your little one so your Halloween decorations will be complete.

  • Black, white, orange construction paper
  • Halloween stickers
  • Googly eyes
  • Glue
  • 1 pipe cleaner or ribbon
  • Popsicle stick
  • Green marker
  • Puff balls
  1. Cut a large circle out of the orange construction paper. 
  2. Fold circle in half and cut a smaller circle in the middle of it. (The smaller circle can be used for your pumpkin.)
  3. Cut out a black cat head and white ghost.
    Glue on eyes and puff balls and attach stickers. 
  4. Glue on popsicle stick for pumpkin stalk. 
  5. Poke holes on top of wreath with pipe cleaner and thread pipe cleaner through. 
  6. Hang from your door!

Finger Paint a Fall Tree!

This time of year I try to soak up every bit of fall beauty I can get my hands on! To bring the colors of the autumn leaves inside (and for a token of fall you can enjoy all through the impending Chicago winter) I suggest making a fun and easy finger-painted fall tree. This is an easy project to do at home with very little supplies involved. The sensory experience of fingers in paint is one your child will surely enjoy! For this one, change out of good clothes... and don't be afraid to get a little messy!

  • Orange, red, and yellow paint
  • Brown crayons
  • 1 white sheet of paper
  • Messy mat

  1. Lay messy mat on table. 
  2. Draw tree trunk and branches with brown crayon on paper. (Grown-ups, you might need to help your little one during this part of the project.) 
  3. Start finger painting the leaves onto the tree! 
  4. HAVE FUN!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Week EIGHT: Recap!

Happy Halloween! Today in Taste Buddies we celebrated a little early with some Pizza Mummies, Spider Cupcakes, Halloween Fruit Kabobs, and Swamp Juice! It was spooky and delicious!

English muffins make the yummiest pizzas. Using English muffins instead of pizza dough is a great way to portion out the size of the pizza for your little one, plus it's quicker! We used string cheese to give the pizza a mummified look. For the eyes, we used olives. Surprisingly, quite a few Taste Buddies thought the olives were very tasty!

We had the Taste Buddies use a plastic bag filled with chocolate frosting with a hole cut in the corner to frost the spiders. The chocolate frosting was most people's favorite part of class... I can't imagine why!

These are a great party food. You can use any black or orange fruit to make it festive for Halloween!
I think anytime a juice is green it's bound to be hit with kids! Green smoothies also make a great Halloween treat.

Special thanks to Laken today, for being such a great helper!!!

Week EIGHT: Pizza Mummies, Swamp Juice and Spider Cupcakes!

from Family Fun Magazine

  • English muffins
  • Pizza sauce
  • Black olives
  • Scallions
  • Red or green pepper
  • Cheese sticks or slices
  1. Heat the oven to 350ºF. For each mummy, spread a tablespoon of pizza sauce onto half of an English muffin (toast it first, if you like).
  2. Set olive slices in place for eyes and add round slices of green onion or bits of red or green pepper for pupils.
  3. Lay strips of cheese (we used a pulled-apart string cheese stick) across the muffin for the mummy's wrappings.
  4. Bake for about 10 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the muffin is toasty.

from Family Fun Magazine

  • 1/2 cup small tapioca pearls (found in the baking aisle of most grocery stores)
  • Food coloring
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 8 gummy fish
  • Seltzer water
  • Lemonade
  • 8 gummy worms
  1. Bring 6 cups of water to a boil and add the tapioca pearls. Reduce the heat slightly and boil the pearls, stirring occasionally, for 20 to 25 minutes. 
  2. Divide the pearls, with the remaining water, between two bowls. Add 4 drops of food coloring (we used 3 drops of yellow and 1 drop of green in one bowl, and 4 drops of blue in the other) and 2 tablespoons of sugar to each bowl. 
  3. Stir the mixtures, then allow them to sit uncovered for 20 to 25 minutes. 
  4. Drain and rinse the pearls with cold water.
    Spoon 2 tablespoons of pearls into each glass and drop in a gummy fish. 
  5. Fill the glasses with seltzer water, then add a splash of lemonade. 
  6. Place a gummy worm around a spoon.

from Family Fun Magazine

  • Chocolate cupcake (body)
  • Canned chocolate icing
  • Chocolate sprinkles (hair)
  • 2 pieces of eye-type candy (we used Bassett's Liquorice Allsorts)
  • Clean scissors
  • Ruler
  • 1 package of black string lace licorice (legs)
  1. Frost the cupcake with chocolate icing and cover with sprinkles.
  2. Press the eyes into place.
  3. Use scissors to cut eight 4-inch pieces of licorice for the legs.
  4. Holding all of the legs together in a bunch, bend them in half and crease. 
  5. Push the end of each leg into the cupcake, four on each side, to assemble the spider.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Halloween Must-Read Books!

Hooray, it's Halloween! Last week, I shared my favorite seasonal book. This week, I'm sharing a whole list of other GREAT Halloween stories, so that you can find a favorite too! Check out my list below of must-read books for the Halloween season:

  • Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak: Wolf costumes & wild things, it's a classic!
  • There was an Old Witch by Howard W. Reeves &  David Catrow: Based on the well-known story of "There was an Old Lady..." only this time, she catches a bat instead of swallowing that icky fly.
  • A Very Brave Witch by Alison McGhee: An adorable young witch's view on Halloween!
  • Black Cat Creeping by Teddy Slater: Great for little ones, this follows some kids and a lonely cat to a Halloween party.
  • Pumpkin Soup by Helen Cooper: This beautifully illustrated book stars a cat, duck, and squirrel as they prepare pumpkin soup, yum!

Join Miss Becca on Thursday at 4 p.m. for our Open Play Story Time. She'll be reading these and other howl-iday tales!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Halloween for Babies?

"My little one is too young for pumpkin carving or haunted houses... are there any fall bonding activities you can recommend for the younger set?"

I can recommend a great Halloween finger-play activity, “Five Little Pumpkins”
. Both toddlers and babies alike will enjoy learning this, and so will mom and dad! It's one I remember from my childhood, and that I had the pleasure of teaching to my own daughter when she was younger. It's a true classic, and a tradition that I hope is passed on for generations to come in my family. I've attached a video below, so you can learn how to do this with your child!

Based on this finger-play is a wonderful book with vibrant, bold pictures illustrated by Dan Yaccarino. Pick it up at your local bookstore or here online, to further enhance your "Five Little Pumpkins" activity.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Self Portraits

I have a confession... I absolutely adore butcher paper! You can use it to cover a table to finger paint. It can be put on walls if your child has a knack for "decorating" with crayons. It can even be used to make a giant coloring book!

I like to use butcher paper in my classes frequently. We recently made self portraits out of butcher paper. I covered the walls with butcher paper, and I had the grownups trace their child's outline on the paper. We then used dot paint, (you can find it at your local craft store) crayons, and construction paper to create our own soccer team with uniforms and all! This is a great rainy day craft. You can trace your whole family!

  • Butcher paper
  • Red construction paper
  • Black construction paper
  • White construction paper
  • Dot paint
  • Sticker eyes
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Tape
  1. Tape Butcher paper to a wall. 
  2. Trace the outline of your child with a crayon. 
  3. Cut out red shirt, black shorts, and white number for soccer uniform. Glue to child's outline. 
  4. Add eyes and facial features. 
  5. Using dot paint, fill in the hair and decorate!

Week SEVEN: Recap!

I am going to go straight home today and make what we made in Taste Buddies for dinner. It was so good I am going to eat it twice! We made lasagna roll ups, a simple salad, and a pear and apple crisp. It was a classic, comforting, yummy food day in Taste Buddies.

These are such a great, kid-friendly twist on a classic pasta dish. We shredded Parmesan cheese, and then we used our hands to spread the cheese on a precooked lasagna strip. We then rolled them up and dipped them in marinara sauce. This was one of my favorite dishes we have ever made in class!

This salad makes a great side to any pasta. You can even use your leftover Parmesan cheese from the lasagna to sprinkle on top. Yum!


This dessert just feels like fall to me. Don't worry if your mixture is really crumbly. It will solidify once the shortening is poured on top.
The best (and worst) part of this crisp is that it will make your kitchen smell so wonderful, you'll have to use some major self restraint to leave it in the oven for the full bake time. Top it with a scoop of ice cream and enjoy it while it's still warm for a truly blissful dessert moment.

Week SEVEN: Pear & Apple Crisp, Lasagna Roll Up and Simple Salad

  • 5 to 6 cups sliced, pared apples (about 6 tart, firm apples) 
  • 1 cup sifted flour
  • 1/2 to 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 unbeaten egg
  • 1/3 cup melted, cooled shortening
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  1. Place apples in a greased 6 x 10-inch baking dish.
  2. Mix the next 5 ingredients together with fork until crumbly, and sprinkle over the apples.
  3. Top your apple and crumble mixture with shortening and cinnamon. 
  4. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes in a 350°F. Serve warm with cream or ice cream.


  • 8 ounces dried lasagna noodles (do not substitute a no-boil version)
  • Handmade ricotta (or 16 ounces store-bought ricotta)
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil or Italian seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon granulated garlic
  • 1 jar tomato sauce
  1. Boil noodles according to package instructions, they should be barely al dente.
  2. Once cooled, lay out on foil or parchment lightly coated in cooking spray.
  3. Mix ricotta with Parmesan cheese, basil, and garlic.
  4. Spoon 1/4 cup cheese mixture onto the noodle, spreading out evenly.
  5. Add additional fillings such as cooked sausage or fresh spinach now.
  6. Roll up the noodle and serve with tomato sauce for dipping.

  • 1 large head romaine lettuce - rinsed, dried and torn into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 large head iceberg - rinsed, dried and torn into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 (14 ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained and quartered
  • 1 cup sliced red onion
  • 1 (4 ounce) jar diced pimento peppers, drained
  • 2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  1. In a large bowl, combine the romaine lettuce, iceberg lettuce, artichoke hearts, red onions and pimentos. 
  2. Toss together.
  3. Prepare the dressing by whisking together the olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt, pepper and cheese. 
  4. Refrigerate until chilled and pour over salad to coat. Toss and serve.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Book of the Week: "When a Monster is Born" by Sean Taylor, Illustrated by Nick Sharratt

Bubbles Academy is being transformed... to a spooky, sparkly, magical Halloween fun house! In celebration of the upcoming howl-iday, this week's book is When a Monster is Born, playfully illustrated by Nick Sharratt and wittily penned by Sean Taylor.

If you've read my bio, you've already heard of When a Monster is Born, since it is listed as one of my favorites, but it's worth mentioning again! The story is all about choices, so much in fact that every page is a new choice for the title character. It begins,
"When a Monster is Born, there are two possibilities... either it's a far-away-in-the-forests monster, or it's an under-your-bed monster..."  
We find out with the turn of the page that if it's a forest dwelling monster, then"that's that", but if it's an under-bed dweller, there are two more possibilities. In this case either it "eats you" (accompanied by a truly entertaining and not-at-all scary illustration) or "you make friends and take it to school".

This book is the perfect opportunity to talk with your little reader about how the choices we make shape our lives. It follows the monster choice-by-choice as he falls in love, gets married, and even has a baby of his own. It ends full circle with the newborn's choice of the far-away forest or under the bed.

Throughout the book, Sharratt's illustrations delight and entertain, they are the perfect companion to Mr. Taylor's text. It's the kind of book that makes it easy to read aloud, since the page turns allow for perfect comedic timing. It is on my must-read list for all the little bookworms in my life. Hope it delights your Halloween reader, too!

For some fun help getting into the Halloween spirit, join Miss Becca at Open Play Story Time this Thursday at 4:00 p.m. for the reading of When a Monster is Born!
Then, join us as we celebrate Halloween all next week! Be sure to bring your little one out in costume to all of our classes October 24-29th.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Apple Picking and Making Memories

I have already mentioned my favorite pumpkin farm, but I'd like to share with you now another place that has captured the hearts of some other local families. County Line Orchard, located in Hobart Indiana (about an hour drive from Chicago), seems to be a real hidden gem!

With a hayride that brings your family out to pick their own pumpkins in the patch, age-appropriate rides, and apple trees at just the right height for picking with your children, this place seems created for families with young children in mind. I've heard it's a "must see" from several parents, with a few jokingly referring to it as "their little secret." However, it sounds so good I just couldn’t resist sharing it with you! For more information, visit their website here.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Week SIX: Recap!

We had a wonderful class today in Taste Buddies, learning how to make pretzels! They looked just like the soft pretzels you can find at a baseball stadium. We also made banana roll ups and chicken stew. It was a tasty menu today, and we all left with our stomachs full!

I had no idea pretzels were so easy to make. You can even use pre-packaged pizza dough if you don't have all of the ingredients at home. I would suggest having some mustard handy for dipping!

This recipe makes enough to feed the whole family… and then some! If you make the full recipe, you can always freeze some of it for later. Just leave the potatoes out until you are ready to eat it. This is a great meal to feed a bunch of people and it's super healthy! 

The original recipe says to melt the chocolate chips in the recipe. We just sprinkled them on top of our soy nut butter, and they tasted great! This is a great snack, I sometimes even eat it for breakfast.

Week SIX: Soft Pretzels, Chicken Stew and Banana Roll Ups

  • 1 cake of compressed yeast or envelope of dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups of warm water
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 4 cups of flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  1. Preheat oven to 425°F. In bowl, dissolve cake of compressed yeast or envelope of dry yeast.
  2. Add water, sugar, salt and flour (enough so the dough is not sticky).
  3. Knead dough until smooth.
  4. On lightly floured board, cut off small pieces of dough. Roll in ropes and twist.
  5. Bake on a lined cooking sheet until golden brown.

  • 1.5 pounds cooked chicken (no bones)
  • 1 can chicken broth
  • 1 can vegetable broth
  • 3 cans of water
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 6 potatoes, chunks
  • 2 stalks celery chopped
  • 1 onion chopped
  • Green beans
  • Yellow beans
  • Carrots
  • Cabbage
  • Peas
  • Corn
  1. In a large pot, sauté the celery and onion in oil until soft. 
  2. Add broths, chicken and water (use chicken broth can to measure 3 cans of water). Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer.
  3. Add potatoes. Let simmer for about 30 minutes or until the potatoes are soft. 
  4. Add vegetables; any favorite will do, frozen or fresh.
  5. Simmer an additional 10 minutes until vegetables are tender.
NOTE: Corn starch can be added as a thickener.


  • 1 banana
  • 1 whole wheat tortilla
  • 1 tablespoon soy nut butter
  • 1 tablespoon melted chocolate chips 
  1. Melt chocolate chips in microwave for 30 seconds or until soft.
  2. Stir chocolate mixture with soy butter.
  3. Spread on to tortilla.
  4. Slice banana in half length wise, and put one half on tortilla.
  5. Roll up like a burrito.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Book of the Week: SuperHero ABC by Bob McLeod

Want a book that's going to grow with your little one? Check out SuperHero ABC by Bob McLeod. You guessed it, I LOVE THIS BOOK. It is consistently a favorite among our young Bubblers. It's your standard A-B-C book, but with a classic comic book twist. Mr. McLeod is an experienced comic book writer and illustrator, and it shows in this heroic journey through the alphabet. You meet a new alliterative superhero on each page: starting with Astro-Man who is "Always Alert for an Alien Attack" and ending with The Zinger who "Zanily ZigZags through the Zero Zone!" I know your little hero will enjoy the heroic surprises on each page and will learn her ABCs at the same time!

A-B-C books generally don't make my "worthy of Story Time" list, but McLeod's clever details, and amusing character thought-bubble quotes make this engaging to read aloud. His details are truly worth a forth, fifth, or four-hundreth look at the pages!

Zoom out to meet all the heroes of SuperHero ABC at Open Play Story Time this Thursday at 4 p.m. It's going to be a SUPER time!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Fall Reading Recommendation!

"What's the best Halloween book to read to my little one?"

Without a doubt my favorite Halloween book is The Ugly Pumpkin, written by Dave Horowitz. Just like in the classic story of the The Ugly Duckling which we all know and love, this is the story of an "ugly pumpkin" who is rejected by other Halloween creatures. We find out at the end that the pumpkin is actually a squash!

With its colorful illustrations and cute anecdotes, it is a book that relays a nice message that the entire family will enjoy. It's also a perfect read for this fall season! You can find it for purchase online here.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Pinkie Flamingo!

If your fridge is looking a bit drab this fall, you could be in need of a flamingo! This easy craft is a great way for you and your child to be creative together. Plus, it looks great on the fridge. Have fun!

  • 1 pink sheet of construction paper
  • 1 paper plate
  • 2 sheets of ink tissue paper
  • Pink paint
  • White glue (Elmer's works well!)
  • Pink glitter
  • Pink feathers
  • 2 sticker eyeballs
  • Messy mat

  1. Lay down messy mat.
  2. Mix half pink paint and half white glue together.
  3. Cut out flamingo head and legs.
  4. Paint paper plate with paint and glue mixture.
  5. Stick on tissue paper feathers.
  6. Sprinkle with glitter and add eyeball stickers.
  7. Let dry and stick on the fridge!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Week FIVE: Recap!

We had a lovely tea party today in Taste Buddies class! We made mini cucumber sandwiches, deviled eggs, and sugar bear cookies. We also enjoyed some iced tea and milk to wash down our snacks.

These are super cute and easy to make. Try variations on this with different types of prepared cookie dough, like oatmeal or chocolate chip! You can also change your cookie shape to suit your season, like using dough balls and raisins to create a flower for spring, or snowman for winter.

We used mini toast from Whole Foods Market in class today for our cucumber sandwiches. We topped our toast with cucumber and cream cheese. Whipped cream cheese works best because it is easier to spread. This is such a fun, easy treat, with just a few ingredients!

We made the tastiest deviled eggs I have ever eaten today in Taste Buddies! We used a plastic bag to put our filling in and then squeezed it out of a snipped-off corner, like icing. They looked beautiful and tasted wonderful!

Week FIVE: Sugar Bear Cookies, Cucumber Sandwiches and Deviled Eggs

  • 1 package of pre-made sugar cookie dough
  • 1 box of raisins
  1. Roll balls of cookie dough and place on cookie sheet to create a bear.
  2. Use raisins for the eyes and belly button.
  3. Bake according to cookie dough package directions.


  • 2 small slices white bread, ends trimmed
  • 2 teaspoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons whipped cream cheese
  • 4 (1/4-inch) slices of English cucumber
  • Pinch of salt
  1. Spread one teaspoon of butter on each slice of bread.
  2. Spread one tablespoon of cream cheese on top of each buttered slice.
  3. Place cucumber slices on one slice of bread. Add a pinch of salt.
  4. Top with the other bread slice and press together.
  5. Make a diagonal cut across sandwich to make two triangle tea sandwiches.

  • 6 hard boiled eggs
  • 1/4 cup of mayonnaise
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon white vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  1. Cut eggs in half.
  2. Remove egg yolk from egg.
  3. Mash with remaining five ingredients.
  4. Put egg yolk mixture back into egg half and sprinkle with paprika.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Book of the Week: "The Kiss That Missed" by David Melling

I am so excited about this week's book! It's called The Kiss That Missed written and illustrated by David Melling. 

I stumbled upon it before my Bubble Step class (our gentle separation class) one day here at Bubbles Academy. I thought I would only make it about half way through the book, but those Steppers sat through the entire story. The book begins with a king, who is always in a hurry, blowing a goodnight kiss to his son, the prince. However, the kiss misses... and flies right out the window! 

The distraught king then sends his trusty (though clumsy) knight on a quest to find that kiss. The knight and his horse travel across the kingdom, through Melling's active and engaging illustrations, until they reach the deep, dark woods. Inside the woods, they are surrounded by forest creatures, all a little more silly than scary (thank goodness). Just when our good knight is cornered, that pesky kiss whizzes in, kissing all the animals goodnight! He follows that kiss to a dragon who wants to give them a kiss of his own. What a fun and silly fairytale!

All the heroes, including the woodland creatures and the dragon, journey back to the castle where the king vows to stop being always in a hurry. The king and the entire court settle in for a proper goodnight, complete with pillows, blankets, snuggles, a story, and of course... a goodnight kiss. I was really touched by this wacky adventure. What a nice reminder, as school is kicking back into session and days are getting shorter, that we should take time for what's really important.

Journey over to Bubbles Academy this week for your own adventure as we read The Kiss That Missed during Open Play Story Time at 4:00 p.m. this Thursday!